Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 21 September 2014

Trauma of riot blaze shop owner

House of Reeves was engulfed in a fierce fire during the riots in London last summer
Gordon Thompson admitted starting the fire at House of Reeves at the height of last year's London riots
The burnt-out shell of the House of Reeves furniture store in Croydon

The owner of a family-run furniture shop has said parts of him "had died" after a blaze razed the business to the ground during the riots last summer.

Maurice Reeves was speaking outside the Old Bailey after Gordon Thompson, 33, admitted starting the fire that destroyed 144-year-old House of Reeves.

Images of the inferno that ripped through the shop in Croydon, south London, and spread to buildings on the other side of the road were some of the most dramatic from last year's unrest.

Speaking outside court, Mr Reeves said the blaze was so traumatic, "parts of me have died".

"It's difficult to describe because it's been such a traumatic time for us. The building's been there all my life. I worked in there every day and when I go into work now the building's not there. You can appreciate it's still sinking in and this brings all the memories back."

He added: "It's with tears in my eyes when I think about it."

Thompson pleaded guilty to arson, being reckless as to whether life was endangered, at House of Reeves in August last year. He also admitted one count of burglary for stealing a laptop from the shop on the same night.

Thompson's trial for starting the blaze had started at the Old Bailey earlier this week, but at the end of the prosecution opening he decided to admit certain charges. Prosecutor Oliver Glasgow told the court he had consulted members of the Reeves family about accepting the guilty pleas.

Thompson had already admitted burglary of two shops in Croydon - Iceland and House of Fraser - on the same evening. Jurors were ordered to find him not guilty of two other charges of violent disorder and arson with intent to endanger life.

Judge Peter Thornton QC warned that Thompson, of Waddon Road, Croydon, will face "a long sentence of imprisonment". He will be sentenced on April 11.

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